MMA Review: #575: StrikeForce Challengers: Lindland vs. Casey

-Time flies, man. Case in point – May 2010 doesn’t seem that long ago for me and yet it’s actually over half a decade ago – in the MMA world the week before this show, Alistair Overeem defended his StrikeForce HW title against Brett Rogers while a week after it, Rampage Jackson and Rashad Evans were set to face off at UFC 114 in one of the all-time great grudge matches. We were still almost a year away from Zuffa buying StrikeForce, both DREAM and Sengoku were still running in Japan, Fedor was recognised as the best HW in the world, Conor McGregor was just 3-1 and Ronda Rousey hadn’t even debuted yet! Oh, and Sage Northcutt was just 14! Makes me feel old to think about stuff like that really.

Strike Force Challengers: Lindland vs. Casey

Portland, Oregon

-Your hosts are Mauro Renallo, Pat Miletich and Stephen Quadros.

Lightweight Fight: Pat Healy vs Bryan Travers

Although he was unknown coming into this one, Travers was actually sporting a very good 13-1 record and had a pretty strong wrestling background. Hard-nosed veteran Healy meanwhile had basically fought everywhere from the UFC to WEC to the IFL at this point and he had a record of 22-15 with wins over the likes of Carlos Condit, Paul Daley and Dan Hardy on his record. Dude is one of the all-time great gatekeepers in MMA.

Round One begins and they circle and exchange some feeler strikes with Travers landing on a pretty decent combo early on. Healy is a MASSIVE 155lbs. Clinch from Healy but Travers muscles him into the fence. They jockey for position before Travers punches his way out of the clinch and follows with a left hook. Takedown attempt from Healy is stuffed, and they go back to the clinch and jockey along the fence again. Travers breaks once more and lands with another quick combo, but Healy comes back with a right hand. Combo follows but Travers ducks under and puts Healy down with a double leg. Healy works to get back up, only to eat a left hand on the way out. Nice body-head combo from Healy and Travers has to clinch, where they exchange some dirty boxing before breaking. One minute to go and Healy lands an overhand right into another clinch, but Travers drops for the takedown. Healy stuffs it and they continue to muscle along the fence, with Healy landing a good knee to the body. Travers fires back with a solid knee of his own and the round ends in the clinch. Close round, probably 10-9 Travers by a hair.

Round Two and Travers opens with a solid combo, but Healy fires back with one of his own and they’re exchanging pretty openly. Looks like Healy might have Travers hurt and he forces him into the fence, then he breaks to land a right hand before lifting him up for a slam. Travers pops back up but gives his back, and Healy suplexes him down and looks for the hooks. Again Travers pops back up to his feet, but Healy’s all over him and he looks to get him down again. Some good defense from Travers allows him to stay up, and they continue to trade from the clinch before breaking off. Healy’s really pushing the pace now. Good combination from Healy and Travers looks for a single leg, but Healy stuffs that and forces him into the fence again. Takedown attempt from Healy and he goes really low for it, but Travers defends. Healy keeps going and drags him down, and almost takes the back before Travers stands again. Healy stays stuck on him and almost gets a suplex before just dragging him down and getting both hooks in. Tremendous job from Travers allows him to shake the hooks off, but he eats some more shots en route to the clinch. Really nasty body shots from Healy and he gets another strong takedown, but again he can’t keep Travers down. This is a real war of attrition. Hard knee to the body lands for Healy. More clinch work follows and they break to end the round. Clear round for Pat Healy, 10-9.

Round Three and Healy tags Travers with a heavy right hand from the off. Travers looks to fire back but he looks tired now and Healy lands on him with another combo. Good leg kick from Travers though and he tries to fire back, but Healy goes for the takedown and hits a HUGE SLAM before taking the back. Big crowd pop for that one. Travers crawls towards the fence and works his way back to his feet, but Healy’s all over him. More body punches connect for Healy from the clinch and he bullies the smaller man with some knees to the body as well. They break off and Travers is definitely tired. He makes a desperation shot though and manages to get Healy down. Healy reaches through to look for a switch and ties up the right arm for good measure, and it looks like he’s going for a kimura. Travers avoids and almost takes full mount, but Healy gives his back and uses it to stand up. Travers keeps hold of a rear waistlock and trips him back down, but Healy pops right back up and then Travers returns the favour from earlier and hits a slam of his own. Again Healy works back up, but Travers slams him back down only for Healy to roll through right into a choke attempt! Travers avoids that, but Healy hits him with a HUGE GERMAN SUPLEX to pop the crowd, and they go into a scramble before getting back up. Exchange from the clinch ends the fight. Tight one to call, I’d probably go 29-28 Healy but it was close.

And it’s Healy’s decision; 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27. This was a surprisingly good fight as both guys worked HARD, really pressing the action and doing a ton of stuff in the clinch with loads of takedowns, slams, and reversals too. Basically unless you’re something really special – as in, Khabib Nurmagomedov – you’re going to have trouble fighting Pat Healy in that style of fight and sure enough Travers ended up wilting a bit, but he still looked pretty good and it’s unfortunate that he’s only fought four times since, one of which was another loss in StrikeForce. And despite being cut by the UFC in 2014, Healy continues to do a substantial amount of damage on the regional scene. This was an excellent opener.

Welterweight Fight: Tarec Saffiedine vs Nate Moore

Future StrikeForce champion Saffiedine was still very much a work in progress at this point; this was his second Challengers appearance after a couple of fights in DREAM in 2009, one of which saw him lose to Dong Sik Yoon in a tight decision which kind of shows you the level he was on back then. Moore meanwhile was coming off two wins, one of which came over noted porno star CHARLES DERA. Really.

Fight begins and this crowd suddenly sound insanely dead. They exchange some feeler strikes with Moore pushing the action but walking into a couple of sharp counters from the Belgian. Takedown attempt from Moore and he gets Saffiedine down for a second, but the Belgian bounces right back up. Moore stays on him and keeps looking for the takedown, but Saffiedine shows some awesome defense and shrugs it off. One-two lands for Saffiedine to set up the plum, but Moore breaks the clinch quickly with a flurry of body shots. Nice combination lands for Moore. Dude has some quick hands. Brutal combination from Saffiedine stuns him though and he’s badly wobbled. Takedown attempt follows but Saffiedine stuffs it and quickly takes the back, leaping right on with both hooks. Moore looks to shake him off, and sure enough Saffiedine’s slightly too high and he has to give up the position. Sharp leg kick lands for Saffiedine. Combo misses for Moore and it looks like Saffiedine’s got the range down now. Another combination lands for the Belgian. Exchange continues before Saffiedine lands a front kick to the face. Quadros and Miletich try to say that sort of shot is an insult that does no damage, but of course this was a year BEFORE Anderson Silva killed Vitor Belfort dead with it. Flying knee connects for Saffiedine. Moore responds with a flurry and they exchange punches to end the round. Fun stuff, 10-9 Saffiedine.

Into the 2nd and they exchange leg kicks in the opening minute. Wild exchange sees Saffiedine land a clean combination into a leg kick. Combo comes up short for Moore and he shoots on a takedown, but the Belgian stuffs it and then CRACKS him with a left uppercut. Moore dives desperately for the takedown but he can’t get Saffiedine down. They come back to the feet and Saffiedine WAYLAYS him with a CRUSHING RIGHT HAND and that’s that. Saffiedine’s first career knockout and it was AWESOME.

Really fun fight with Saffiedine showing his development as he stuffed all of Moore’s takedowns, took a while to work out Moore’s range and once he did he really took over, outstriking him before putting him away with a vicious knockout. Really cool stuff.

-Mauro joins Josh Thomson for an interview as they reveal he’s booked for the Fedor/Werdum card about a month after this one, but don’t name an opponent. Josh drops Vitor Shaolin as a possibility and fuck I’m frustrated that two promotions (WFA back in 2001-2 and StrikeForce) never got to put that fight together.

Welterweight Fight: Bobby Voelker vs Roger Bowling

Brawler Voelker had made a name for himself at the previous Challengers show I looked at, knocking out Erik Apple in a wild brawl, and this was his second StrikeForce appearance against newcomer Bowling, who was 7-0 with 7 finishes. Definitely an exciting fight on paper then!

Round One and Bowling tags Voelker right away with a flurry of punches before hitting a takedown into half-guard. He’s really going for it and he lands some more punches from the top before slowing down as Voelker ties him up. Looks like Voelker is cut already. Voelker escapes to his feet, but he gets tagged again and Bowling is all over him with punches. Voelker swings right back but Bowling continues to tee off on him before clinching again. They break off and a left hook connects for Bowling. Body kick follows and then another big combo lands for Bowling before Voelker clinches. Action slows down before they break, and Bowling lands with a pair of heavy kicks before Voelker swings right back. Chopping leg kick connects for Bowling. Voelker fires back with a combo and it looks like Bowling’s slowed down slightly. He still manages to land another flurry though that backs Voelker back into the fence. Voelker’s chin is INSANE as he somehow fires back before Bowling ducks under and hits a BIG SLAM to half-guard. Voelker’s left eye is a MESS, bleeding out all over the place. Round ends with Bowling working with punches from Voelker’s guard. Pretty clear 10-9 round for Bowling.

Round Two and they TRADE OFF right away with Bowling knocking Voelker down with a short left! He pounces and lands some shots from the top before Voelker manages to tie him up from the guard. Bowling looks to move into half-guard, then looks for a kimura on the left arm, but Voelker avoids it and so Bowling just OPENS UP with heavy punches, stunning Voelker again. Nasty left jab snaps Voelker’s head back and a couple of hard body kicks land for Bowling too. Voelker is getting destroyed on the feet. Big left hook lands for Bowling but somehow Voelker is still standing and firing back. Another slam from Bowling plants him on the ground though. Punches get through for Bowling as Voelker tries to tie him up from the guard. Looks like Voelker wants a guillotine, but Bowling pops his head free pretty easily and continues to work the body. Referee calls a stand-up and Bowling connects on a pair of body kicks, but Voelker comes forward swinging his way into the clinch. Trip takedown from Voelker and now he lands in side mount. Voelker is tough as nails. Bowling reverses up to his feet though and he lands a short elbow from the clinch. Trip takedown from Bowling into Voelker’s guard and the round ends there. Another 10-9 for Bowling.

Round Three and they exchange wildly and this time Voelker hurts Bowling, dropping him to a knee! Bowling pops up and fires right back and now he’s got Voelker rocked, but Voelker comes back with a takedown to half-guard. This is a crazy fight. Full guard for Bowling and he rolls for a possible armbar, and then uses that to escape to his feet. They muscle for position in the clinch and both men look understandably tired. Referee calls a clean break and suddenly Bowling’s got a problem with his right eye, blinking pretty badly and it looks like he caught a poke at some point. Ref calls time and it sounds like the issue was caused by the stitching on Voelker’s glove rather than a poke, similar to the end of the second Couture/Belfort fight. Crowd are booing which is understandable but unfortunate given it’s nobody’s fault. Doctors come in to check Bowling over and it turns out he can’t actually open his eye. After much deliberation the doctor finally makes the call to stop the fight, and they announce that due to the incident happening in the third round, the judges are going to make a technical decision. All three judges have it 29-28 for Roger Bowling, giving him the win.

Well, outside of the shitty finish this was a TREMENDOUS FIGHT as Bowling threw everything but the kitchen sink at Voelker who somehow took it all, and he even seemed to be mounting a comeback before the unfortunate finish. StrikeForce smartly booked a rematch between the two that saw Voelker complete his comeback to win by second round stoppage in another wild fight, and due to the quality they ended up doing the trilogy fight as well and Voelker pulled it out once more. This one’s a bit of a lost classic I’d say and it’s definitely worth searching it out on Fight Pass.

Welterweight Fight: Tyron Woodley vs Nate Coy

After dispatching of previous opponent Rudy Bears in impressive fashion, Woodley was given another step up here in the form of hometown fighter and future TUF contestant Nate Coy. Coy was sporting an 8-2 record with his biggest win coming over Rick Story, who at this point was doing well for himself in the UFC, so it was pretty clear that he’d be Woodley’s toughest opponent yet, especially with him having such a strong wrestling game to combat Woodley’s best asset.

Round One and Coy comes out with a low kick but Woodley ties up and looks for a takedown. Coy defends initially but Woodley muscles him down into full guard. Excellent wrestling there. Into half-guard for Woodley and he gets a beautiful pass to mount, but Coy slithers free and escapes to his feet. Body kick from Coy but Woodley counters with a strong right hand that puts him down, and he immediately dives for a takedown. Woodley defends by grabbing a front headlock, but Coy escapes to his feet and we get a bit of a wild trade before Coy shoots again. Woodley sprawls again and this time he spins to take the back, where he drops some punches to the side of the head. One hook in for Woodley and he follows by flattening Coy out, before going for an arm triangle. Coy manages to avoid by giving his back again, and he stands and eats a knee on his way out of the clinch. This is a frenetic pace. Combination lands for Coy and he shoots again, but Woodley defends again and finds himself forced into the fence. Knees to the legs connect for Coy and he manages to get Woodley down for a second, but Tyron pops right back up. They exchange some more knees before the ref calls a break, and Coy pushes forward with a pair of low kicks and a knee. Head kick misses for Coy and he shoots for the takedown again, but again Woodley defends it. They muscle for position and Woodley lands with a hard knee, but Coy comes back with a combo. Woodley is backing into the fence now which is worrying. Knee from Coy sets up another clinch and they exchange more knees until the round ends. Very close round but I’d go 10-9 Woodley for the better start.

Round Two and Coy comes out swinging, backing Woodley up early on. Good left hand lands for Coy. Pair of right hand counters from Woodley slow him down a bit but he takes the punches pretty well. Uppercut glances for Coy. Woodley comes back with a body shot and then lands with a decent combo. Exchange continues with both men landing, but Woodley’s still finding himself backed up into the fence. Clinch from Coy and he lands some more knees to the legs, but Woodley comes back with some knees of his own. Referee calls the clean break when they slow down and Woodley has to call time for a second due to an eye poke. They restart quickly and Coy walks into a right hand that wobbles him a bit. He gets back on the offensive though with a front kick, and they exchange punches with both men landing. Flurry from Coy but he walks into another heavy counter. Coy’s really attacking though and he comes back with another combo. Head kick misses for Coy and he slips to the ground, but manages to shoot for a takedown. Woodley sprawls out and grabs a front facelock, and from there he spins and takes the back with both hooks. That was a slick move. Choke attempt from Woodley but Coy defends it well. Woodley flattens him out though and drops some punches, but Coy manages to defend well and doesn’t take that much damage. This is a dominant position for Woodley though. Round ends with an armbar attempt from Woodley and it looks like Coy might’ve been saved by the buzzer. Another close round but due to the dominant position at the end I’d probably go with Woodley again.

Round Three and Coy walks Woodley down again and lands with a couple of nice low kicks. More leg kicks land for Coy and he also connects with a left hand. He’s really got Woodley backing up here. Quick combination glances for Woodley but Coy keeps on pushing forward with more low kicks. A counter combo seems to wobble Coy, but he quickly comes back with another low kick. Takedown from Woodley though and he gets it, planting Coy down in guard in the center of the cage. He manages to force his way into back control again, getting both hooks, but Coy scrambles only for Woodley to remain in control. Coy manages to reverse to his feet and now he spins into Woodley and goes for a takedown of his own, and he gets it! Nice. Coy advances into half-guard and he drops a couple of shots, but Woodley manages to get butterfly guard back and he goes for an armbar and then a leglock. Coy avoids both and remains on top, getting through with a few punches, and the crowd are massively behind him. Woodley tries to get up but Coy works hard to keep him down and lands a lot of punches to the body. Elbows to the head and body land for Coy and he moves into side mount to avoid a possible kimura. North/south now for Coy and he remains in control. Announcers are pretty much figuring Coy’s got this won now. Round ends with him in side mount and I’d give it to him pretty comfortably, but I’d still call it 29-28 Woodley overall.

Unsurprisingly the judges have a split decision – 29-28 Woodley, 30-27 Coy and 29-28 for Woodley, garnering some SERIOUS BOOS from the crowd. Well, I had it the same way so I can’t say I agree with them, but it was definitely close – as close as Woodley came to losing prior to that knockout by Nate Marquardt, for sure. I thought Woodley started strong enough to eek out the first round and then finished strong enough to win the second, but I guess you could’ve given either one of those rounds to Coy. This was a tremendous fight throughout and it’s wild how different the trajectories of each man ended up being – Woodley is of course now the UFC WW champion and while Coy’s on the UFC roster, he’s also just 1-1 and is more recognised as a journeyman now. I guess MMA is odd like that sometimes.

Middleweight Fight: Matt Lindland vs Kevin Casey

At this stage of his career former perennial contender Lindland was beginning to slow down a lot, as he’d lost two in a row to Vitor Belfort and Jacare Souza, and realistically hadn’t looked good since 2007 pretty much. Casey was by far his lowest-level opponent in some time though – despite a strong grappling background he was very inexperienced at just 3-1 and even on the back end of his career, Lindland wasn’t exactly an easy out for someone like him. Not really sure why StrikeForce were main eventing a show with a Matt Lindland fight as it goes, but I guess being in Portland it kind of made sense. Not that I’d have ever considered it myself, that’s for sure!

Crowd are heavily behind Lindland, probably moreso than any other crowd I’ve seen before. Round One begins and Casey pushes forward, throwing a couple of jabs before clinching. Takedown from Lindland follows right into Casey’s guard. Guess he shouldn’t have clinched with a Greco-roman silver medallist. Casey goes to full guard and looks for an armbar, but Lindland postures out and drops a few solid punches. Sweep attempt from Casey doesn’t work due to the cage being in the way, but he does reverse up to his feet and force Lindland into the fence. Rabbit punches appear to land for Lindland but the ref chooses to ignore them. Lindland goes for a guillotine and decides to pull guard, but Casey avoids it and then plants the Law on his back in half-guard. Lindland works back to butterfly guard, and then scrambles but Casey takes advantage of it and gets the back, slapping both hooks in! Lindland’s in trouble now as Casey begins to work for the choke, and the crowd are HORRIFIED at the possibility of him losing. Body triangle from Casey now and he’s in firm control. It looks like he’s got the choke sunk in fact but Lindland guts it out and peels the hands off. Casey continues to search for the choke and it looks like he’s got it about three times, but Lindland keeps managing to escape and with seconds to go he manages to spin over into Casey’s guard. Weird foot stomps from the guard land for Lindland (!) and as they stand he delivers some knees. Casey manages to shove him into the fence though and that’s the round. 10-9 Casey due to all the back control. He looks tired going into his corner, though.

2nd round and Casey lunges for a takedown, but Lindland grabs a front headlock to block it and lands some knees before forcing him into the fence. Casey tries to move along the fence but ends up giving his back, and Lindland forces him down and almost takes a full mount before landing some strong punches. Casey looks like he’s out of steam entirely. He manages to get to full guard, but Lindland’s all over him dropping punches now. Casey attempts to get up, but gives up a front headlock again and Lindland uses it to control him before he pops up into the clinch. Takedown attempt fails for Casey and Lindland drags him down again before forcing him onto his back for some more ground-and-pound. Lindland’s basically just bullying him now. He works into half-guard and traps him against the fence, and from there he continues to land punches. Just under 1:30 to go and Lindland drops into the full guard, where he drops some more hammer fists and punches to the body. Armbar attempt is avoided well by Lindland and he keeps on working from the top. Crucifix position from Lindland and he looks to finish Casey off, but he can’t quite land enough to seal the deal before the round ends as Casey escapes to his feet. Probably a 10-8 round for Lindland due to the sheer dominance.

Third round of what’s been a surprisingly decent fight. Both guys look a bit tired actually. Lindland presses forward until Casey grabs a clinch and basically ends up falling to his back as Lindland goes for the takedown. He’s in full guard, but Lindland immediately postures up to drop punches and he easily avoids a sweep attempt, going into half-guard. Casey looks basically done here. More punches land for Lindland and he adds in some elbows to the body for good measure. Lindland continues to work him over to little answer from Casey and now he takes full mount. Series of hard hammer fists connect for Lindland and the ref’s watching this closely. Lindland traps the right arm and continues to land, and finally the referee decides he’s seen enough and calls the fight. Probably a late stoppage in fact given Casey didn’t do anything in the round really.

Fight was actually pretty good for a Matt Lindland one, mainly because while he lost the first round, in the second and third he was able to get Casey down and from there he was actually pretty damn aggressive, just working him over with his ground-and-pound en route to a pretty late stoppage. I still maintain Lindland was overrated throughout his career and basically got a rub due to being on the outs with the UFC so much, but he was certainly always a tough opponent for an inexperienced dude like Casey. This turned out to be Lindland’s final career win actually as his StrikeForce run ended with a vicious knockout at the hands of Robbie Lawler, and after that he fought one more time, losing to Mamed Khalidov before retiring. Maybe in hindsight he should’ve hung it up after this win in front of his hometown fans, but then nobody does that really.

-Show ends with a nice highlight reel to some porno-sounding music.

Final Thoughts….

For a b-level show StrikeForce hit a total home run with this one, with three tremendous fights in the form of Healy/Travers, Woodley/Coy and especially Bowling/Voelker, a nasty knockout from Saffiedine and then a pretty good main event in Lindland/Casey. Definitely worth checking this whole show out on Fight Pass, two thumbs up.

Best Fight: Bowling vs. Voelker
Worst Fight: Lindland vs. Casey

Overall Rating: ****1/4

Until next time…